By Sevin Philips, MFT
Passive forms of communication include passive aggressiveness, guilt, silent scorn, and eye rolling or other non-verbal behavior. Passive communication forms such as these manifest into these passive forms when we are not in environments or family systems that support our true feelings or needs. We withhold our truth in an attempt to avoid saying something uncomfortable, confrontational or potentially upsetting. For some people, this may seem like a caring act. Upon closer examination, however, we find more dysfunction than benefit. Our true needs or feelings get suppressed and eventually come out sideways. Passive forms of communication are not only unclear and ripe with misinterpretation but they also lead to ongoing resentment and a feeling of manipulation.
The best way to break this cycle is to ourselves be more assertive. When we have needs or uncomfortable feelings we risk the confrontation knowing the alternative to be ultimately more painful and confusing.
Steps to overcome passive communication:
1. Stop doing what you think the other person wants
2. Notice behavior in others that is unclear or unsaid
3. Check out your assumption with the other person
1. I noticed you rolled your eyes, are you upset?
2. When you say you dont care anymore, are you trying to say you do not want to go with me?
3. When you say I am acting like a baby, are you trying to tell me you do not like my decision?
The point of this practice is to diminish the use of passive forms of communication to manipulation or control. These steps are not meant to teach or change others; they are here to change our relationship with them. We invite clear communication, support all needs being addressed and if necessary, deal with two opposing needs.